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battle of the bugs

Once again I lost the habit of writing here, but I have a slightly better excuse than usual. I have been fighting a war. 

The short version – our apartment has fleas. 

Background – We moved into the current apartment a little more than 2 years ago. Last summer I got bug bit occasionally, three or so at a time every few days. We never could figure out what was biting me or where, and since I’ve always attracted bugs and reacted impressively to bites it was impossible for me to be sure where they were coming from.

As this summer warmed up, I started to get the occasional bite again. We went away to CO/SD for a week at the beginning of July and closed up the apartment, when we got back it was humid and stuffy but it aired out quickly. However, the bites increased when we returned, I was getting ten or so a night. 

A week later I was packing for my trip to WI and I saw a bug for the first time. Small, dark brown, kind of bullet shaped on the top, and when I moved it jumped away.  I did some internet research and it looked a lot like a flea. We don’t have any pets, but some other folks in the apartment complex do, as well as some of the neighbors.

My first night back I found a few bugs crawling on me and was able to show them to J, he confirmed my flea diagnosis. With knowledge newly gained from the internet I began vacuuming daily (which does work on adult bugs) and carefully dusting, but I continued to get bit. That weekend (7/23) we pulled all the moveable furniture out of the bedroom and flea powdered the carpet for a full 24 hrs, then shifted things back into the bedroom and flea powdered the rest of the carpeted areas of the house as best we could. J and I went to a double feature and dinner to let the powder sit for several hours before vacuuming. I also flea powdered my car, just in case.

That last week of July I was working and so out of the apartment a lot. The skin-so-soft I ordered from Avon arrived and I was coating myself in it whenever I was home.  I tried taking an antihistamine to reduce my reaction, but it didn’t seem to help. There were still a few bugs around and I was still getting bit, but we hoped the powder had made the carpets uninhabitable so what we were seeing were stragglers. I had a new kaleidoscope of bites on my ankles as we left Friday morning for a weekend in Santa Barbara.

That brings us to this week. Sunday night we got home and I was feeling lazy. I didn’t skin so soft, and we couldn’t vacuum; it was too late. Besides we there were only straggler fleas left, we were winning.

Monday I woke up with over 50 new bites.

So the landlord is in on it now, and working on getting an exterminator in. We’re back to daily vacuuming, have changed the sheets on the bed again, and have all our dirty laundry sealed in garbage bags so they can’t re-infect anything.  J has created a decontamination zone in our entry hallway, we’re planning to wash ALL of our clothes on Saturday, and I slather myself in skin-so-soft as soon as I get in the door from work. I’m still getting bit but in the range six to eight a day. Really, being able to count them on my fingers is a relief, though with so many bites already it’s difficult to tell what is new and what’s not.

The current theory is that the fleas are coming from a hedge next to where J parks his car.  So we’ve been reseeding the fleas inside all the time.

I am constantly itchy. Calamine lotion is my friend though flaying my skin also seems reasonable. On dinner break today I actually stripped naked in a bathroom stall so I could be sure to lotion every bite. This is horrible and I just want it to be over. Gah. Though on the plus side, our apartment has never been so clean.

If anyone’s made it through all this – I likely owe you a sticker or a cookie or something.

If anyone has family remedies for bug bites, or knows of a clever way to get rid of fleas please, please let me know.

Typing does distract from itching and I’m back in rehearsal, so I should be more present here for the next few weeks. 

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We had a bad flea infestation once. I remember holding one of the dogs on my lap and picking fleas off her with tweezers and squishing them. I got a TON of bites on my legs, constantly. Was awful! We ended up finally beating them with a combination of Borax rubbed into the rugs and a similar powder stuff we got from the vet - you've got to get something that will kill the eggs, or the babies right after hatching actually. I never did find anything to stop the damn itching though- the house was more my priority.

I've been putting any fleas I see into the toilet to drown, I'm bad at squishing them. My bites tend to be mostly below the knees or around my waste, but I've even got one on my scalp at the moment.

I'm planning to visit a pet store tomorrow, since I'm guessing they will have the best options of over the counter anti-flea items. I'll keep Borax in mind, and we should be seeing the exterminator by this weekend. I've seriously considered getting a flea collar to wear as a bracelet at this point.

We liked Borax because it's nontoxic, but according to the vet the grains are something the babyfleas will eat (they look for food as soon as they're hatched) and then they'll die. Since you two don't have pets, the toxicity isn't as much of a problem. I'm sure the vet or pet store will find you something that will work- but if the landlord pays for an exterminator that's even better.

J emailed the landlord last night to check in since we hadn't heard anything. Going to a vet when we don't have pets would be weird, but may not be a bad idea.

Fleas is fleas. Vets know how to get rid of fleas. This time of year many of them will have stuff for sale on display in the waiting room, and you can definitely get good advice.

One of our dogs was suddenly plagued with fleas one year. I took to wearing sheer stockings indoors so that they couldn't attack my legs! Sadly, that's about all I can help with :/

That's not a bad idea. I think I own some tights somewhere....

We had fleas from the cats once, and I did some research - we never did it but you can put diatomaceous earth on your carpet after each vacuuming


I had seen something about DE when I was doing my first research, but didn't know much about. Thanks for the article - it clearly explains what it is and what to do with it. May be worth a try.

I had fleas in Truro. The vet gave me spray stuff, to go along all the baseboards with. The washing was a pain, I kept everything in plastic and washed it over time but I also had the luxuary of being able to keep the plastic bags on the sunpoarch which was below freezing.

I had hardwood floors so the vet suggested washing the floors with warm soapy water, to get water and soap into the cracks. Could you steam clean the carpets? Espically around the baseboards?

Why do you think they are comming from a hedge?

Good luck! Dealing with bug infestations are no fun.

I am unexcited about doing all of my laundry, but then I've meaning to go through my closet for months so I guess this is a good excuse.

I hadn't thought of a steam cleaner, I bet we could rent one from somewhere.

The hedge theory comes from a of couple things. Mostly as we've been uber observant this week J has noticed fleas on him when he comes in from his car (parked next to the hedge) and not other times. He purposely brushed past the hedge at one point (after first having checked he had no fleas on him) and when he came back in there were six. The local family of raccoons go through it all the time and a dog lives on the other side. Honestly, it's partially hopeful thinking too - the idea that if we can just stop bringing them in it'd get better is a nice one.

Don't know about anything to help rid you of the fleas (other than bombing the place...I'm sure the exterminator will do that). I can help with the itching. I've been highly allergic to rubber/latex since I was about 9 years old. I'm used to breaking out and itching like ther is no tomorrow. Take a bath (tepid water) and add about 1/2 to 1 cup of corn starch to the water. It will pull the itch right out. I would continue to do this until you're sure you're rid of them. I promise it will ease the itching.

Corn starch? I've taken a bath with epsom salts which helped, but not completely. I'll try the corn starch tonight, thank you so much. Resisting the urge to scratch all day is exhausting.

I know, corn starch, who knew? It's been working for me since I was little. It does make your bathtub a little slick, so be careful when you're getting out and/or the next time you get in (if you don't rinse the tub well afterwards). It seems to work best in warm to cool-ish water too. You'll be amazed how much it will help you. During the day you might try baby powder w/ corn starch in it to help with the itching, especially around your waist.

This will be the one time that our hot water never getting hot will work to my advantage! Thanks for the baby powder tip too, controlling the itch while at work is the worst part - at it's worst I seriously considered sitting at my table with no pants on.

The bath was pretty equivelant to epsom salts for me, but it was also likely too warm (that night our hot water was working). However, the baby powder hint is total genius! After applying the itching disappears nearly instantaneously and stays gone for a few hours. Thanks so much!

I'm glad the baby powder worked. I would try adding more corn starch to the bath water next time.

Yeah, I used 1/2 cup of cornstarch to a really full bath so I think the proportions could be better. Thanks again for your suggestions and help.

We had fleas in a carpet when we moved into a rental and I was reading my mother's copy of Mrs Beeton (a 1960s edition) and she recommended 'For fleas in the underwear, dust liberally with DDT powder'... ahem.

Borax is great - has about the same toxicity to us as salt, apparently, so just don't eat it and you should be fine.

I'm so sorry you're in the midst of this - itching is awful.

I'm making a list of new carpet things to try - and heading to a pet store later today because I'm guessing they'll have the best selection of stuff.

My boyfriend is getting bit we think, he has little red dots, but he doesn't react at all. I'm hugely envious.

50??? holy crap that's horrific. I wish I had some sort of remedy to offer. :-(

I hope that your landlord can get the situation resolved sooner rather than later and that you are okay. :-(

It was impressive. Between the bug bites and a sunburn from last weekend I am the least attractive person ever right now.

We nudged the landlord yesterday - hopefully things will get moving soon.

Ack! You poor thing you!

I am literally itching and feeling crawly feelings all over my arms now.... it might be from reading your story or it might be a side effect of some medication I'm on.

...or they've got me too. But...I have no hedges. Aaaaaaah!

Nooo, I don't want to send the bugs to anyone else!!

I didn't mean to make anyone crawly, but given how itchy I've been all month I'm not surprised reading about it communicated that. Sorry.

...and thanks for the giggle in a long, slow rehearsal.

Our dogs have had fleas twice. Sometimes it's easier when you have pets, because things like Frontline and the like attract and kill fleas on the pets. One trick we learned that worked was to put a light over a dish of soapy water, the fleas jump towards the light and land in the soapy water and die. It works, but obviously only on adult fleas.

Fleas are like the one bug that doesn't love me. They hardly ever bite me, not like mosquitoes that devour me.

I hope the exterminator works!

At one point it was bad enough I was considering applying frontline to myself, though apparently it's bad for humans. The light trick is a neat one, I may have to try it. Does the light need to be really focused to work?

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